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Groundhog Grief on Groundhog Day

How to keep the pesky garden munchers away humanely

You've seen them before. Standing on their little hind legs in your garden, munching away on some veggie you worked hard to grow.

They'll stare you down, freakishly at times. They're groundhogs. They're very cute and very brazen. But they can also be very destructive.

Nonetheless, every Feb. 2 we rely on the critters — also known as woodchucks — that hibernate from October to February to predict the coming of spring as they crawl out of their burrow by a showing or not of their shadow.

Today is Groundhog Day; and, the most famous of all groundhogs, Punxsutawney Phil, will rear his head in his official role as seasonal soothsayer.

In honor of the groundhog's somewhat sacred weather predicting role in our lives, "the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is encouraging people to celebrate the day by learning more about our wild neighbors and ways to peacefully coexist," a release from the society said.

"People are excited to see Phil on Feb. 2, but within weeks, some homeowners will complain about groundhogs eating flowers and garden vegetables,” said Laura Simon, field director of Wildlife & Habitat Protection community programs for The HSUS. “With the right tools and a little tolerance, people can easily discourage unwanted groundhog activity in their gardens and peacefully coexist with them.”  

Following their months' long hibernation period, groundhogs start breeding. Then they start seeking out eats in gardens to feed themselves and their families. They dig and live in burrows and raise the ire of many a gardener and will go head-to-head with domestic pets, too.

The folllowing are some tips issued by the Humane Society to keep groundhogs from hogging their way into your garden:

  • Scare Them – To temporarily discourage frequent visits to your garden, place objects in the area that will reflect sunlight and continually move in the breeze, such as tethered Mylar party balloons, “animal scaring” balloons with faces and big eyes or dangling pieces of Mylar tape.
  • Exclude Them – Since groundhogs do not like to climb unstable fences, installing a wobbly 3 to 4 foot-high mesh barrier around a garden keeps them away permanently. The HSUS recommends using regular green garden fencing, which comes in 16 gauge, 4-foot-tall mesh rolls. This mesh is available at most garden, hardware and home building stores. A trick for success when installing is to extend the bottom 12 inches of mesh outward, parallel to the ground, and pin this portion securely to the ground with landscaping staples. This “apron” will discourage them from digging under the fence. Also, make sure the top portion of the mesh is not taut when securing to fence posts, so it wobbles when challenged, which discourages the groundhogs from climbing over. 

What have your experiences with groundhogs been? Other than weather prediction, do you have your own Groundhog Day tradition? Tell us what that might be in the comments section below.

Rocco February 02, 2013 at 09:58 PM
Oh thank goodness. I can't wait to be outside wearing my sundress and flip flops again.

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